The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Post and the EPA’s Perception Problem

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted May 4, 2012

The Washington Post’s take on the EPA, in the wake of Al Armendariz, is scathing. The Post editorial:

“The most reasonable interpretation is also among the most disturbing — that Mr. Armendariz preferred to exact harsh punishments on an arbitrary number of firms to scare others into cooperating. This sort of talk isn’t merely unjust and threatening to investors in energy projects. It hurts the EPA. Mr. Armendariz was right to resign this week, while EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson denied that his comments reflected the agency’s approach. Yet the question will remain: Is an aggressive attitude like the one Mr. Armendariz described common among EPA officials?”

The editorial seems to answer its own question – noting EPA’s moves to block an Idaho couple from adding on to an existing home in an established residential area. Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the couple's right to challenge the agency in court without

significant delay and potentially large fines. The Post:

“Maintaining the legitimacy of the EPA’s broad regulatory authorities requires the agency to use its powers fairly and, in so doing, avoid the impression that its enforcement is capricious or unduly severe.”

Yet, the newspaper argued, the EPA seems to already have a reputation for abusive and injudicious conduct, with the Armendiraz and Idaho cases serving to reinforce public perceptions. Not good for EPA, not good for the legitimate work it does keeping our air and water as clean as possible. The Post:

“The lesson for Ms. Jackson and her boss, President Obama, from these two episodes is clear: The agency’s officers must have a clear sense when to deploy its mighty power and when to exercise discretion. That’s true for the sake of the economy and to ensure that the EPA will be able to continue its necessary work for years to come.”

America’s oil and natural gas industry has engaged EPA in recent months over proposed rules for emissions during natural gas production and ozone, as well as its approval of E15 gasoline and other issues. Industry recognizes the agency’s regulatory role, while asserting that EPA should fully consider cost impacts before it takes action – on individual companies and on their work finding and developing the energy America needs.

The Post is right: The exercise of great power must be accompanied by good judgment, and to the extent these cases suggest a lack of judiciousness at EPA, it’s concerning.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.